Perivascular infiltrates of inflammatory cells are a hallmark of lesional skin in scleroderma. We have explored the potential for scleroderma fibroblasts to modulate mononuclear leucocyte migration across endothelial cell monolayers in tissue culture, and to regulate expression of endothelial cell adhesion molecules. Fibroblasts were grown from skin biopsies of eight patients with active diffuse cutaneous scleroderma and from four healthy controls. Co-culture and conditioned medium transfer experiments examined the effect of soluble fibroblast products on mononuclear leucocyte (U937) cell migration across endothelial cell (1E-7) monolayers grown on tissue culture inserts. Co-culture of scleroderma, but not control fibroblasts, promoted transendothelial migration of U937 cells. Scleroderma fibroblast-conditioned medium had qualitatively similar effects and equivalent results were obtained using Jurkat-6 (T lymphocyte) cells, and with peripheral blood mononuclear cells from a patient with diffuse cutaneous scleroderma. Promotion of leucocyte migration does not appear to result from increased endothelial adhesion molecule expression, since fibroblast-conditioned medium did not up-regulate endothelial cell expression of intercellular adhesion molecule-1 (ICAM-1), vascular cell adhesion molecule-1 (VCAM-1) or E-selectin. Moreover, leucocyte migration across cytokine-activated endothelial cell layers in co-culture with fibroblasts was less than across resting cells, although the selective effect of scleroderma fibroblast co-culture persisted. Recombinant monocyte chemoattractant protein-1 (MCP-1) or IL-8 increased passage of mononuclear leucocytes across endothelial cell monolayers, whilst anti-MCP-1, but not anti-IL-8 antibodies, significantly reduced the effect of fibroblast conditioned medium. These data suggest that systemic sclerosis (SSc) fibroblasts promote leucocyte migration across endothelial cell monolayers in tissue culture via an MCP-1-dependent mechanism. These findings may be relevant to the perivascular mononuclear leucocyte infiltrates characteristic of early SSc lesions.